OMAHA (DTN) — The federal government is turning back the clock on the controversial waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule — quite literally — with a proposal announced on Tuesday to recodify the law as it was written prior to 2015.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a news release that the move will allow for a second rulemaking down the road.
“This action would, when finalized, provide certainty in the interim, pending a second rulemaking in which the agencies will engage in a substantive re-evaluation of the definition of ‘waters of the United States,'” the EPA said.
“The proposed rule would be implemented in accordance with Supreme Court decisions, agency guidance and longstanding practice.”
The proposed interim rule came about as a result of President Donald Trump’s Feb. 28, 2017, executive order calling for a review of the WOTUS rule that is the subject of many lawsuits. The U.S. Supreme Court is slated to consider a legal challenge regarding which court is the proper venue to consider those cases.
“We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement.
“This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine ‘waters of the U.S.’ and we are committed to moving through this re-evaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty, in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public.”
Agriculture, other industry groups and state governments across the country alleged the Obama administration’s WOTUS rule expanded federal jurisdiction to waters not traditionally protected by the Clean Water Act. Even prior to the completion of the 2015 WOTUS rule, farmers and ranchers faced uncertainty as to which waters were considered jurisdictional. So far neither Congress, nor the EPA, has been able to make the law more understandable.
“Therefore, this action, when final, will not change current practice with respect to how the definition applies,” the EPA said in a news release.
The response to this announcement can be found here.